Medical problems: a compelling reason to quit

When we think of people being granted unemployment benefits we generally assume that they were fired or discharged for one reason or another. However, you can still receive unemployment benefits if you quit and had a compelling and necessitous reason to do so. One compelling reasons that allows you to quit your job and still collect benefits is a health or medical problem. It may seem obvious that a medical problem would be a compelling reason, but it is not entirely clear-cut. Even if you are quitting for medical reasons you must follow a certain procedure to do so and collect your benefits.

What is the rule for using a medical reason as a compelling reason to quit?

In order to use health or medical problem as a compelling reason to quit the employee/claimant must do the following:

  1. Show competent evidence that adequate health reasons existed for her to voluntarily quit.
  2. Inform the employer of the medical problem
  3. Be available for work if reasonable accommodations are made

In order to more fully understand this rule let’s look at each part one by one.

Competent evidence of a medical problem

The law in this area has changed a bit over the years in Pennsylvania, but as it stands now a claimant can use his own testimony and/or supplementary medical documents to show that the health problem existed. Thus, some testimony on its own may be sufficient, but it is probably best to present medical documentation of the health problem to supplement your testimony. One thing that you do not need to do is provide the testimony of a medical expert. Although using the testimony or report of a medical expert certainly would not hurt your case.

Inform the employer of the problem

You must inform your employer of the medical problem and there are two things to be aware of here. It is important to be specific about your medical condition when you tell your employer. If you are too vague, then your notice to the employer may not be sufficient as a matter of law. Second, you must inform your employer in a time reasonably close to the time that you quit. So you cannot tell your employer and then  quit six months later. Your notice must be close in time to your quit.

Be available for suitable work with reasonable accommodations

When you inform your employer of your medical problem your employer then has the opportunity to provide reasonable accommodations so that he can make your job suitable. If he does not provide the accommodations or cannot provide them, then your quit will be justified. If, however, he can provide reasonable accommodations, then you cannot quit and collect benefits.

Also, be aware that because unemployment compensation is not meant to provide benefits for disabled workers you must still be ready, willing, and able to perform some type of work after your quit.

If you can meet the three elements discussed above then a medical problem will justify your voluntary quit.